The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the first obstacle that must be overcome before getting into an MBA program. Along with identifying your dream business schools, top programs, and safety schools, one of the first stops on your road to a master’s degree is GMAT prep.
Once you’ve identified just what’s on the GMAT (I’ve got you covered here), you’ll want to identify your preferred course of action for test prep (check out my recommendations here) and order the test prep materials you’ll need to get the ball rolling (see my favorites for GMAT prep books here). After months, weeks, or a couple days of studying (you do you!), you should probably gauge what you’ve learned by taking a practice test.
Taking practice tests is a key strategy for succeeding on all standardized tests, and that includes the GMAT. If you don’t know how you’re doing, you can’t course correct and focus on the areas where you need to improve or ignore the areas where you’re crushing it on every practice test. Whether you’ve got a target score in mind for that dream school application, or you want to improve a previous GMAT score, or you need to reach a benchmark for financial aid or workplace tuition matching, poring over practice questions and practice tests is crucial for achieving the best GMAT score you can get.
Like GMAT prep courses and GMAT prep books, there are a number of free and readily accessible GMAT practice tests available online as well as some high quality options to consider once you’ve burned through the free options and need a challenge, want to push yourself, or really just want to stop seeing repeat questions that have answers you’ve memorized.
After years of tutoring students in all manners of standardized test prep, I’ve noticed that some options on the test prep market just work better for most students than others. If you’re going to invest your time and money on full-length practice tests, then you want to take practice tests that will actually tell you how you’re doing, what you need to improve on, and how you stack up against other people who are taking the GMAT and applying to business schools.
I’ve ranked the Best GMAT practice tests in the test prep game below on several metrics: how close it is to the real test, question quality, and adaptiveness. Before we dive into those rankings, however, I’ll offer an overview of the GMAT prep and practice test market, what you should be looking for in a practice test, and my tips for making the most of practice tests. Trust me, you don’t want to take more than you need to.
What Are Your Options?
The GMAT prep market has tons of options for test takers at a variety of difficulty levels, price points, and depths. While some test prep companies, like Manhattan Prep, offer more intense and deep-dive GMAT prep course programs, not everyone in the GMAT test prep market offers the same quality, intensity, depth, or breadth of practice materials. GMAT practice tests are no different. Since you’ll probably be taking a practice test every two or three weeks (or every month, or every week, or every three days depending on how hard you’re hitting the books or your laptop) to gauge your progress and adjust your study plan, knowing what to look for in a practice test is key.
I’ll start by pointing out that GMAC, the Graduate Management Admission Council, which writes and administers the GMAT, does produce its own prep materials and has some test prep course options as well as practice tests. Because GMAC is the same group responsible for the actual GMAT test, its practice tests have the identical look and feel you’ll experience on test day and, like the actual GMAT, these tests are computer-adaptive and will get harder (or easier) depending on how you’re doing on a particular test section.
GMAC even has two free practice tests online, which you can take multiple times, though realistically your first pass is going to be your most predictive and accurate in terms of progress. There are limited questions, and they will repeat. GMAC also has several other package options that include two or four practice tests, depending on what you select.
While I would strongly recommend starting with the official GMAC materials — they’re written by the same people, have the same time limits and format as the actual GMAT, and they’re computer-adaptive — you may already be using another test prep program or course that comes with practice tests, or you may simply want alternatives.
Most test prep companies offer either a free online GMAT practice test or additional stand-alone tests ranging in cost from $15-$50. While quality varies, most GMAT prep companies have been in the test prep game for at least a decade (and some, like the Princeton Review and Kaplan, are simply synonymous with test prep) and know what to offer test-takers in search of a great practice test.
While GMAC comes the closest to offering test takers the actual GMAT test-day experience (you’ll probably take the practice tests at home on your laptop from the comfort of your couch or desk, which is obviously not how your actual GMAT test day will go), its competitors know to offer the high-quality questions, visually similar formats, and question explanations that test takers are looking for. But if you’re a first-time test taker or just sort of winging this whole experience, you might not know where to start, which is why you’re reading this.
What Should You Look for in a GMAT Practice Test?
There are several crucial components of a GMAT practice test. This is true whether you’re taking a free GMAT practice test over and over again because you’ve already spent money on a test prep course, or reading a stack of books you won’t look at again after you take the GMAT, or because you simply don’t want to pay $25 to sit down and do unhelpful practice questions that call themselves a test for three and a half hours.
Basically, if you can’t identify the following components of a GMAT practice test in whatever practice test you’re taking, you probably shouldn’t be taking it and instead should circle back to GMAC’s official GMAT practice tests (mba.com). GMAC obviously knows what it’s doing, and competing practice tests should offer you, as the test taker, the same visual experience, instructions, timing, format, high-quality and computer-adaptive questions (quantitative and verbal), answer explanations, and detailed score report you would expect of the actual GMAT test.
Looking and Feeling Like the Real Test
GMAT practice tests should, above all, look and feel like the real GMAT test you’ll take on test-day. While thee practice tests, even from GMAC, aren’t the official test, the question types, timing, format, and instructions should look nearly, if not identical, to the actual GMAT test.
The best practice tests should be taken on a computer, include all four sections (analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning), have a timer for each section, and run the same time as the actual test. They should also look the same as the actual test and have the same instruction pages as the real test.
The Practice Question Quality Stacks Up
I’ve criticized some GMAT prep courses previously for practice questions and question banks that are just not at the same difficulty as the actual GMAT test. What you don’t want in a practice test is a question bank that both fails to challenge you and fails to reflect the actual difficulty of the test. The best GMAT practice tests, thus, feature realistic, varied difficulty, and high-quality practice questions across a range of practice types.
As someone who has written hundreds of GMAT practice questions for my students and for test prep companies, I know that if you’re taking a well-constructed, adaptive test, you will eventually run into a question that is designed to push your limits. And that’s a good thing. What’s not a good thing is if you see the other end of this spectrum throughout a practice test: Questions that are either too easy or don’t really test you on a relevant concept should absolutely not be present in a GMAT practice exam, and they won’t be represented on the best GMAT practice tests you can take.
The Tests Adapt to Your Performance in the Verbal and Quantitative Sections
Like I said above, the best GMAT practice tests will offer you a range of realistic, quality questions across a range of difficulties and question types. The best practice GMAT exams should also adapt to your performance in the verbal and quantitative sections, getting harder or easier depending on how well you’re doing.
If the practice tests you’re taking don’t adapt to your performance, odds are you might see a score that doesn’t necessarily reflect what you would get on the actual GMAT test when you get the final score report from the practice. No one wants to score an 775 on a practice test and a 400 come test day. Score reports should help you course correct if you’re getting that 400 but shooting for a 775. This brings me to my next point: score reports and detailed explanations.
You Can’t Succeed If You Don’t Know How You’re Failing
If you’re preparing for the GMAT, and you’re actively doing practice questions out of question banks and taking practice tests regularly, noting your results, identifying what you struggled with, and reading the explanations for any questions you missed—congrats, you’re doing it right! If you’re not meeting every step of your preparation with an evaluative growth mindset, you might never turn that safety school score into a dream school admission.
The score reports that should follow a practice test and the detailed question explanations that should accompany every question on the test should help you to turn the idea of an evaluative growth mindset (improving from your mistakes) into a reality. The best GMAT practice tests should, thus, offer test takers a comprehensive and detailed score report at the completion of the test that identifies a student’s areas of strength, growth, and let’s you know in a general sense what you need to work on.
Once you’ve got that report in hand, it’s time to take a look at the detailed question explanations that the best GMAT practice tests should also include. If you finish a practice test, and there is neither a detailed score report nor detailed explanations for each question covering where you might have gone wrong (good question writers anticipate what students will mess up and will work to explain the most common errors), ask for your money back. That test wasn’t a good use of your time.
Now that we’ve covered what you should look for in a GMAT practice test, here is my ranking of the best GMAT practice tests out there.
Best GMAT Practice Tests
1) The Official GMAC Practice Tests
I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but if you’re trying to improve your GMAT score by taking practice tests (which I highly recommend over isolated practice question drills or loosely structured self-study), you should probably consider the practice tests put out by the Graduate Management Admission Council. That being said, I would recommend taking these tests closer to test day as 1) they are free, provided you’re registered for the GMAT; 2) they are actual test questions, so spending some time with them will help you pick up on nuances between GMAC content and competitor content, and 3) the score calculation for these tests is reported to be a lot closer to their actual score by test-takers than some other practice tests. You’ll want the most accurate benchmark prior to test day, and the Graduate Management Admission Council’s practice tests provide that benchmark.
These practice tests cover all the bases — format, timing, question types, difficulty, computer-adaptive sections, and score reports. Unfortunately some test takers found that the verbal sections seemed easier than the real test and that the official GMAC practice tests lack question explanations, though the additional 90 questions they provide do have explanations. Why do the GMAC test’s cover the bases? Because they write the actual GMAT test you’ll be taking once you’ve taken enough practice tests and feel ready to register for the real thing.
GMAC offers free GMAT prep software at its website (mba.com), and this prep material contains two full-length practice GMAT exams plus an additional 90 questions if you want to push yourself.
If this isn’t enough for you, you can also purchase additional practice tests. GMAC offers:
- two additional practice tests for $49.99 (you can purchase several of these)
- four additional practice tests for $98.98 (sometimes discounted about $10)
They also offer a variety of bundles incorporating practice tests, practice questions, and their GMAT course prep materials, which I have previously reviewed here and highly recommend (spoiler alert, I’m a fan of the materials that GMAC produces because, again, they’re written by the same people who write the test).
2) Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Practice Tests
My second choice for GMAT practice tests is Manhattan Prep. Manhattan Prep is well known in the test prep game, and I’ve consistently rated its content and GMAT test prep courses and materials as among the best in the field. Manhattan Prep puts out difficult and challenging practice questions and exams that, if mastered, spell success for test takers on test day.
While its practice tests don’t match up exactly with what you’ll visually see on test day, Manhattan Prep’s combination of rigor, question difficulty, and computer-adaptive questions make its practice tests a great medium for enterprising test takers to flex their skills. Because their tests are harder than the ones GMAC puts out, Manhattan Prep’s practice tests are great for test preparation, though some test-taker reviews indicate that their quantitative sections are unreasonably difficult and time consuming. Luckily, they’ve planned for this and built in some test-taking options to ease the constraints of extremely difficult quantitative sections.
One of their tutors even replied to a review critiquing the hard quantitative sections, noting that “we’re basically trying to overtrain you for the real test.”
Manhattan Prep also offers test takers some interesting settings that allow them to flex time requirements per section and set time limits on questions (so you don’t waste too much time on those pesky and overly difficult quantitative questions). This is a great tool for resolving any sort of pacing or time-based issues you find yourself facing.
Manhattan Prep offers one free GMAT practice exam and five additional full-length GMAT practice tests are available for $49.
3) Veritas Prep GMAT Practice Tests
My third pick for GMAT practice tests is Veritas Prep. Its practice GMAT tests are realistic and cover an excellent range of question types and difficulties. Veritas Prep’s practice tests are a lot like their content — consistent, well reviewed, and similar to the actual GMAT test.
Reviewers noted that Veritas Prep’s practice tests were a little different than the actual GMAT test but that they are great for practice, benchmarking, and improving test-taking skills. Test takers also noted that Veritas Prep allows you to take the exam all at once or in sections and even offers accommodations for test takers who may need more time.
If you’re looking for a practice test that you can take between a diagnostic and your final GMAC-sponsored exam, Veritas Prep might be the option for you.
Veritas Prep offers one free GMAT practice test and six additional tests for the low cost of $49, which is a steal given that their test prep course packages come at a much steeper price point (their flagship 36-hour course comes in at $1,650 and private tutoring can range from $2,450 up to $7,450). Veritas Prep also posts frequent sales.
4) The Economist’s GMAT Practice Tests
Coming in fourth place is the Economist‘s GMAT practice tests. The Economist‘s GMAT practice tests offer test takers high-quality questions across a range of question types with thorough answer explanations and an accurate and dependable scoring system (reviewers commented that their results from Economist were very similar to their GMAC and test-day results).
Unfortunately, you can’t buy practice tests directly from the Economist and instead have to either take advantage of a free seven-day trial for one practice test (worth it and doesn’t require a credit card) or invest in one of its GMAT prep course offerings.
The Economist has three options: Complete Prep, Premium Prep, and Ultimate Prep. Complete Prep costs $999 for three months, Premium costs $1,199 for three months, and Ultimate costs $1,399 for six months. The Complete Prep plan includes three full-length GMAT practice tests, the Premium Prep plan has five tests, and the Ultimate Prep plan has six tests.
The Economist probably isn’t your best bet for stand-alone GMAT practice tests but might be worth the splurge if you’re considering a fuller course of GMAT preparation. (I haven’t ranked the Economist‘s full courses, but check out my rankings of the other Best GMAT Prep Courses here).
5) Kaplan’s GMAT Practice Tests
Kaplan is a known name in the test prep industry and for good reason. Its GMAT prep materials are well known and clock in at a reasonable, albeit less competitive, price point. Its practice tests are ranked similarly.
The practice tests Kaplan offers are realistic and boast high-quality questions across the range of question types represented on the actual GMAT test. The quantitative and verbal sections are computer-adaptive, and each question has both written and video explanations. The video explanations are hugely helpful for learners who need to talk things through or simply don’t want to read a paragraph about why they didn’t understand a paragraph.
Kaplan offers one free online practice GMAT test, but, to access any others, you’ll have to pay either $149 for four additional tests or $199 for eight additional tests. Both of these packages come with an additional 1,500 practice questions outside of the practice tests and can be accessed through its mobile app, which is helpful for test takers on the go.
Kaplan also offers test takers a unique dry run of test day by offering practice tests at an actual testing facility with proctors. This is an invaluable simulation of the testing environment that other companies and competitors just can’t provide.
Unfortunately, a lot of test takers and reviewers have commented on Kaplan’s practice tests being quite distant and different from the actual GMAT test, and some test takers have even noted that the scoring system Kaplan implements can be “demoralizing.” While some reviewers noted that they were positively surprised by Kaplan’s inaccurate scoring (scoring a 690 with Kaplan and a 790 on the actual GMAT), others reported the reverse. I would definitely not take the Kaplan tests if you’re looking for an accurate report prior to test day. For that, return to the GMAC-provided tests.
Honorable Mention: GMAT Club’s Practice Tests
GMAT Club offers practice tests that reviewers describe as “really, really hard” and “great if you’re just trying to push your quantitative score.” These tests don’t really resemble the actual GMAT exam, and they aren’t adaptive, which is why they are unranked as an honorable mention.
GMAT Club’s tests also don’t score in the same way the actual GMAT and GMAC do, meaning that your score results aren’t really the best reflection of how you’ll do come test day. If you’re trying to push your quantitative scores, I’d consider checking into GMAT Club’s tests but, as one reviewer put it, “[D]on’t think that the actual questions will be this hard on test day; they aren’t.” They’re sometimes free on a promotion but otherwise will set you back $79 for a three-month subscription and a 1,600-question bank.
Honorable Mention: GMAT Pill Practice Tests
GMAT Pill offers one free computer-adaptive practice test with its online course, which rings in at $437 (or $169 as an initial start-up fee and $99 per month after that). The practice test is thus largely part of its GMAT test prep course, which includes 80 hours of video instruction and explanations, a detailed study plan, a community discussion forum, and more than a thousand practice questions, making GMAT Pill a decent option when compared to the other test prep companies.
I haven’t personally ranked GMAT Pill’s full course, but reviews are consistently positive, with most students indicating that the program is good for almost-ready-to-take-the-test test-taking strategies but not really for actual review or to learn the material. They do offer a 50-point money-back guarantee, though, which is nice insulation from the cost of the course.
GMAT Pill’s Practice Test is an honorable mention because, like Manhattan Prep, its content is a bit harder than the actual GMAT test and the material may be better suited for test takers that are actively ready to register and take the GMAT than those starting out or seeking a diagnostic GMAT practice test like Magoosh’s online option. Like some of its competitors, GMAT Pill also offers timing charts and time-management strategies to improve the pacing problems common to a lot of test takers when it comes to the quantitative section. Overall, GMAT Pill is a solid option but probably shouldn’t be your first choice for practice tests.
Honorable Mention: 800 Score Test Practice Tests
The fine people at 800score.com offer five practice GMAT tests. One is immediately available and free, and the other four cost a test taker an additional $24.95. The tests are similar but don’t perfectly resemble GMAC’s exams, are computer adaptive, and include an analytical writing assessment section.
800 Score Test’s practice tests also has test takers answer explanations, the ability to take tests in increments (which I don’t recommend), and diagnostic information about the time spent on each question, which is helpful for resolving pacing issues.
The only reason these practice tests are an honorable mention is because they don’t really resemble the actual GMAT and some reviewers have commented that the material is a lot less challenging than the actual GMAT exam.
Tips and Tricks
- Think of practice tests as benchmarks, not review. Unless you plan on spending a good deal of money on additional practice tests, the free GMAT practice exams that are available are limited. Due to the finite number of exams you can take for free, you should think of the practice exams as benchmarks, not time to review. Go into them thinking “This is test day, and I want the best score I can get” not “I’m bored with this question bank, so maybe I’ll go take a timed test for a few hours.” Both of those mindsets are great for actually preparing for the GMAT, but you’ll definitely want to leverage your practice tests as times for evaluation and self-reflection, not just as well-structured question banks. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a practice test early on as a diagnostic measure — you should.
- Now that you’re thinking of practice tests as benchmarks, you can also use them as jumping-off points for goals and test-taking strategies. Did a practice test reveal that you rushed through the quantitative section because you spent too much time early on answering very difficult questions? Now you can set a goal to take a set amount of time per question. Using practice tests as ways to set goals is a great way to improve your score.
- Never pause a practice test. If you encounter a particularly difficult question during your GMAT preparation, you might spend some time resolving that question before getting back to others. On a practice test, this is an absolute no-no. If you pause a practice test to work on a challenging question, you’re negatively impacting future you, who won’t be able to pause the test.
- Remember: If a question seems arbitrarily challenging, you may have earned it (in the computer-adaptive verbal and quantitative sections), and the test is simply pushing you to achieve greater variance in responses. I would recommend not wasting time on a question you deem to be excessively difficult and instead suggest going with your gut, picking an answer, and moving on. The GMAT test won’t do you any favors when it comes to deliberating about this.
- Additionally, take timing seriously. Practice tests might seem like a place to flex your skills and show that you can handle difficult computer-adaptive questions in the quantitative and verbal sections. If you waste too much time on harder questions and fall behind, your timing is going to get thrown off, and you might have to rush through the back half of the practice test’s questions. You don’t want that. Budget your time wisely and use practice tests as what they are — practice for timing and the other logistical components of your test day experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
“Do I really need to take practice tests? I’ve been doing really well on the question banks!”
Yes, you do really need to take practice tests. For the same reason the DMV makes you take a driving test in addition to a written exam, you need to take a GMAT practice test to ensure that you’re actually prepared to prove you know what you’ve learned and practiced over the course of your GMAT study.
GMAT practice exams offer you the opportunity to identify what you’ve got going for you (you’re crushing the analytical writing and verbal reasoning portions) and what you need to work on (maybe because you’re doing so well on the verbal section those are the only practice questions you do).
Put simply: All the study materials in the world won’t prepare you to take a timed test unless you actually prepare by taking a timed test.
“How can I maximize the benefits of practice tests if I only plan to take one or two?”
You don’t have to take 15 practice tests prior to the actual GMAT test to be successful on test day. Practice exams are about trying out your knowledge and skills in an environment that mirrors test day without actually having to be test day. (I would rather take a dozen practice tests than register for the GMAT more than once, wouldn’t you?)
You can maximize the benefits of the few practice tests you do take by approaching them with a realistic understanding of your GMAT study progress, what you need to work on, and what you’re strong at. If you’re only going to take one or two tests, it’s not a great idea to take a practice test as a benchmark at the start of your study plan. You probably won’t do well, and it might psyche you out for the rest of your test prep course, whether structured or self-study.
You should also seriously review and reflect upon the results of your practice tests. In high school, my AP Biology teacher (shout out to Ms. Hatch!) offered us points back on exams if we went through the exam with a keen eye for our errors and wrote an error log with detailed explanations for why we got a question wrong, what the right answer was, and a detailed explanation for why it was right. While it may seem tedious to do this, critically reviewing what your most common mistakes are on practice questions, particularly on standardized tests where the question writers know about these mistakes and write distractors for them, is the best way to improve your score and develop a greater understanding of the material you’re being tested on — tl;dr: Keep an error log.
“Should I treat practice tests like the real test?”
Yes! You should block off four hours of your day, pick a dedicated space to take the practice exam, and turn off all distractions. Ideally, you should be taking a practice test with built-in timers, timing yourself, and taking the breaks offered to you. You’ll want these on the actual test day.
Like any other standardized test, your mom’s (and teacher’s) advice still stands: Get a good night’s sleep before your practice test, have a healthy and filling breakfast, lunch, or dinner (depending on when you’re taking the test), have a backup plan in case of technical difficulties (bring your computer charger, consider mouse batteries), and clear your schedule. You’ll probably be tired after four hours of multiple choice GMAT questions.
There is an abundance of GMAT prep material on the internet, for free and at a variety of price points, and that includes GMAT practice tests. These practice tests aren’t the sexiest component of test prep — no component of test prep is the sexiest part of test prep — but they are the best barometer for your success on test day. And that’s what matters.
I’ll be blunt: the best GMAT practice tests come from the test makers (the Graduate Management Admission Council). Even though the two free tests (Are they really free? Maybe not! Take advantage anyway!) that come with your GMAT registration don’t have question explanations, they are the most accurate predictor of your actual test score, and it’s incredibly important to get a good grasp of how you’re going to do come test day.
These official offerings may be sufficient for your GMAT preparation, and you might not have to consider other practice tests, but you probably should if you are really shooting for a dream school or just a higher percentile (but don’t use this percentile as an icebreaker when you actually are in business school). You might also want to just bite the bullet and get the additional tests they offer, as they are comparatively cheap or reasonable alongside the competitors listed above.
This should be clear from the rankings above, but I would recommend taking an early diagnostic practice test — maybe from GMAC, maybe from Manhattan Prep, each of which has been consistently reviewed as being harder than the actual test, and maybe from Magoosh, which offers a free online diagnostic GMAT practice test — and following that up with a practice test or two to three weeks of GMAT preparation.
This may seem daunting, but the only way to prepare for the actual GMAT is to simulate the conditions of the test, and practice tests are the best way to do just that. With enough practice (tests), you’ll walk into test day feeling ready to take a four-hour-long standardized test, and it’s because you are ready! You took a ton of practice tests.